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Tompkins: Dublin will miss experienced voices in the dressing room

‘I think what you’re going to find is a big core of this Dublin team will probably retire,’ says Cork legend Larry Tompkins.

AFTER OFFALY DENIED them the five-in-a-row in 1982, Kerry regrouped and delivered a further three All-Irelands in succession between ’84 and ’86.

pat-spillane-of-kerry-1986 Pat Spillane during the 1986 All-Ireland final against Tyrone. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

When the curtain finally fell on the Kerry Golden Years team in the late ’80s, Cork became the undisputed kings of Munster. They dominated the province between ’87 and ’90, beating Kerry in four successive finals.

Mick O’Dwyer later spoke of his regret at not bowing out following what turned out to be his last All-Ireland win as Kerry manager in ’86. He stepped down after the Munster final loss to Cork in ’89 and, one by one, some big names announced their retirement that winter.

Paidi Ó Sé, Tommy Doyle and Mick Spillane all retired prior to the 1990 campaign. At various stages earlier in the decade, the group had lost John O’Keeffe, Ger O’Keeffe, Paudie Lynch, Tim Kennelly, John Egan, Denis ‘Ogie’ Moran, Sean Walsh, Ger Power, Mikey Sheehy and Ger Lynch to retirement.

Jack O’Shea, Pat Spillane, Eoin ‘Bomber’ Liston, Tom Spillane and Charlie Nelligan kept going into the early 1990s, but Kerry were a shadow of their former selves by that point.

Cork were on hand to capitalise and they duly delivered back-to-back All-Irelands in ’89 and ’90. The Kingdom fell into decline and would have to wait until 1997 to lift the Sam Maguire once again.

Kerry failed to replenish with young talent during O’Dwyer’s reign and relied on their veterans until the end, something Dublin have avoided on their current run under Jim Gavin.

Gavin’s regeneration game saw the average age of Dublin’s starting 15 get younger in each final from ’15-’18. Of the side that started the first final of their current unbeaten run, only Stephen Cluxton, Jonny Cooper, James McCarthy, Jack McCaffrey, Brian Fenton and Ciaran Kilkenny paraded in the replayed decider last Saturday week.

In the win over Kerry, the average age of their outfield 14 was just 26, which suggests they’re going nowhere soon.

kevin-mcmanamon-celebrates-with-the-sam-maguire-after-the-game Kevin McManamon is among a number of Dublin veterans who could retire this winter. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

But with seven or eight retirements expected from the squad this winter in addition to the possibility of Gavin himself stepping aside, what impact will it have on the All-Ireland champions?

Larry Tompkins, who was the star player on the Cork side that usurped Kerry in the late ’80s, believes the loss of the likes of Bernard Brogan and Kevin McManamon will be felt in the dressing room – even if they saw little game-time this season.

“I think what you’re going to find is a big core of this Dublin team will probably retire,” says Tompkins. “Even though a lot of them might be subs now, still inside that dressing room, even though they are not playing they still have a huge influence.

“If you were togging out there and if Bernard Brogan was togging out there, McManamon was togging out over there – these guys have a massive impact on Dublin. When they’re not there, there is a big chunk of the iceberg that’s ready to break.

“Naturally, they’re going to have to rebuild a bit too and they are going to have to get guys in to replace them at that level so only time will tell.”

Recalling the impact of those Kerry retirements during his playing career, Tompkins said: “I think from ’89-’90 that team kind of fell away. You had Maurice Fitzgerald who came onto the scene, coming in as a young fella onto the Kerry set-up that was coming into a transition period.

“Kerry were finding it hard trying to break through and get out of the doldrums and get a team of any substance,” he said at his induction into the GAA’s Hall of Fame.

“They kind of came then in ’96 after getting a bit of a team together then in ’97 they won the All-Ireland with Maurice Fitzgerald against Mayo kicking ten points in the All-Ireland final.

“When Maurice came on he was a really great player. When he came on the scene in ’88 it took him nearly ten years to get to an All-Ireland final – so they were in a big transition at that time.

“You were talking about guys that had been there for a long, long period and had been very successful.”

larry-tompkins-1987 Larry Tompkins takes a free in the 1987 All-Ireland semi-final. Source: INPHO

When Kildare natives Tompkins and Shea Fahy joined Cork in ’87, they weren’t carrying the psychological baggage of consistently losing to Kerry earlier in the decade.

That helped Cork eventually get over the line against their neighbours and Tompkins feels that inner confidence is vital to any side hoping to dethrone Dublin over the coming years.

“Cork were good enough for a couple of years before that. They could have beaten Kerry but I don’t think they had the belief to beat them. Kerry were a huge team, a super team but I think there were a few of those years that really Cork gave up because they thought they had no chance.

“But that’s why it took us in ’87, you know, I suppose myself and Shea Fahy coming onto the scene massively made a difference. I think psychologically we might have made a difference because we didn’t have that baggage. We were looking forward to playing Kerry.

“We hadn’t experienced the trauma of being beaten every year – not beaten, hammered.

“So we were coming in at a different kind of curve and we went out and were just delighted to play against the best and if there was anything Shea and myself added it was that kind of psychological approach.

“I think beating Kerry in ’87 was really the start of that great Cork team because it gave them that huge confidence that you’re talking about, you know what I mean? It probably would have been similar if Kerry had beaten Dublin the first day, which they could have done.

“They had the opportunity and the chances. Looking were that Kerry team, I’m not saying they’re not going to improve – they’re still going to be a big force next year – but look at the confidence it would have given them if they had got over the line the first day. It would have been massive.”

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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